|Sponsor||Rep. Peterson, Collin C.|
|Date||June 18, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)|
|Staff Contact||Andy Koenig|
On Monday, June 18, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1272, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Judgment Fund Distribution Act of 2012, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on March 30, 2011, by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill by unanimous consent on April 25, 2012.
H.R. 1272 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to reimburse the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (representing six Chippewa Bands in Minnesota) for the judgment amount and the amount of funds used to file and litigate claims related to various accounting obligations of the federal government pursuant to the Nelson Act and other treaties. According to CBO, these funds have been held in trust for the Tribe and the bill would authorize the disbursement of these funds to the Tribe. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe filed these claims against the federal government alleging that the six bands were not adequately compensated for lands ceded under the Nelson Act and for improper timber valuations. All six bands equally shared the risk and expense of prosecuting the cases. The United States Court of Federal Claims awarded a $20 million settlement. These funds have been held in trust since June 22, 1999, and with interest they total $28.5 million.
According to the House Report 112-501, in 1999, the U.S. Treasury transferred the $20 million settlement to the Interior Department to be held in trust for the Chippewa pending legislation to release the funds (with interest, those funds now total $29 million). Pursuant to the Indian Tribal Judgment Funds Use or Distribution Act Congress must act to authorize the use or distribution of the judgment funds. Under the Indian Tribal Judgment Funds Use or Distribution Act, if the Interior Department cannot obtain consent from the tribal governing body concerning the distribution of an award within 180 days after the funds have been appropriated, legislation is required to authorize the distribution of such funds. On October 1, 2009, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribal Executive Committee passed Resolution 146-09, approving a plan to distribute the judgment funds and requesting that the United States Congress act to distribute the judgment funds in the manner described by the plan.
According to CBO, “H.R. 1272 would have no significant cost to distribute the settlement funds.” CBO further explains, “The settlement amount was considered a federal expenditure when it was transferred from the Judgment Fund to DOI because the Tribe received ownership of the funds. Therefore, the ultimate distribution of the settlement and accrued interest is not a budgetary outlay of the federal government. CBO estimates that the total amount to be distributed under the bill would be about $29 million, which includes the $20 million settlement and about $9 million in accrued interest payments.”